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50th Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Jim Hasson


This profile is part of an occasional series highlighting speakers at SECF's 50th Annual Meeting! Register by July 1 and save $100! Look for an expanded version of this profile in the next issue of SECF’s Inspiration, coming out in early July!

SECF’s 50th Annual Meeting is expected to draw more than a few guests who played a key role in the organization’s earliest days. One of them – attorney Jim Hasson – will even lead a session on the meeting’s third day.

Jim’s signature graces SECF’s Articles of Incorporation and between 1974 and 2011, he spoke at literally dozens of Annual Meeting legal update sessions. After a few years away, he’s returning this year to lead a new legal session, Compliance 101, that will provide practical guidance on best practices for some of the most common issues facing trustees and foundation staff, and the latest legal developments impacting foundations.

While SECF was founded in 1969, it didn’t become a legally distinct organization until 1972 – a process that Hasson was charged with completing.

“I was a young lawyer working under the guidance of my senior partner, the late Randolph W. Thrower,” Jim said. “[A] group of foundation directors turned to Randolph to form a new organization, and Randolph gave the assignment to me to incorporate, organize, and secure IRS approval for SECF. I did so, and I have been amazed and pleased to see the growth, influence and significance of SECF.”

Jim has witnessed many changes throughout his involvement with SECF, many of which, he says, have been to the benefit of the field and the region.

“When SECF was founded, private foundations were indeed ‘private.’ They provided very little information about their activities to the public and they generally were sole actors, avoiding interaction or coordination with other foundations or funding sources such as governmental agencies or universities,” he said. “Happily, from my perspective, that cultural orientation has dramatically changed, and we now see constant interaction among foundations and others looking for solutions to societal problems.”

At the same time, Jim noted, the legal and regulatory environment for foundations has continued to raise questions and challenges, just as the Tax Reform Act of 1969 did – that bill’s passage prompted the creation of SECF.

“These governmental interventions have had the salutary effect of promoting transparency, but at the cost of significantly increasing accounting, legal and operational costs for foundations,” Jim said. “These costs have driven many small foundations out of existence and have inhibited the formation of new, small foundations which often were the most effective in addressing local issues.”

Throughout all the ups and downs, and changes in laws and regulations, Jim says he still remains a firm believer in philanthropy’s ability to transform communities and improve lives.

“I believe strongly in the value of private philanthropy, and private foundations are a major component of that sector,” he said. “I believe that most Americans who are able to do so will continue to contribute human and financial resources to private charitable organizations.”

Hear more from Jim Hasson in the next issue of Inspiration! SECF Members have exclusive access to prior issues at SECF.org!

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